This Fact About That Little Voice In Your Head Has Us In A Tailspin

You mean to tell me not everyone hears The Voice?
Chayaporn Yemjuntuek via Getty Images

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If this is what the inside of your head sounds like 25/8, 1) you and I have eerily similar interests and 2) chances are you have an inner monologue when you think. The term refers to hearing a ‘voice speaking your thoughts in full words’ ― and it turns out the trait isn’t universal.

Dr. Karan Raj, a doctor known for sharing medical knowledge and debunking health myths on TikTok, recently posted a video about the topic. The clip begins with a brief shot of a person looking confused in front of some text which reads, “When I find out some people have an inner voice narrating all their thoughts and they think in actual words and sentences??”

The doctor then began his video silently pointing to two written sentences. “Can you hear this sentence in your head right now?”, the first one read, followed by “Is someone narrating it?”.

“If your answer to those two questions was yes,” Dr. Raj went on to say, “then congratulations ― you have an internal monologue or ‘inner voice’, at least some of the time.”

Here’s what you need to know about the phenomenon:

We don’t really know why some people have the trait

”Why do some people have inner speech?”, the doctor asked, before sharing the somewhat disappointing answer: “We don’t really know.”

“There’s a theory that it helps to simulate or process thoughts and actions before we actually carry them out,” he explains.

And in case you think that the idea is just speculation, it turns out there’s some real, hard science behind the theory. The doctor referenced a 2021 study that looked at FMRI scans of peoples’ brains while they read silently vs hearing a story being read to them.

Those who engaged in ‘inner speak’ showed “activation of the left inferior frontal cortex, a crucial brain region involved in speech.” This part of the brain was also activated when reading out loud, though it occurred on average six seconds later than it did when activated by a spoken source. Still, the findings suggest participants were sort of ‘hearing’ the words they were reading silently.

The inside of one person’s head can look very different to another’s

Dr. Raj says that “If you don’t have an inner voice, there’s a good chance you experience images, emotions, sensations, or abstract symbols instead.”

“For example, deaf people tend to experience their inner ‘voice’ visually,” he said. “Their inner language might be visualising lip movements or hand signs.”

“A proportion of people who lack an inner monologue may also lack the ability to form mental images,” he added, sharing that the condition is called aphantasia ― “literally blindness of the mind’s eye.”

“These people can’t mentally picture their bedroom or even their mother’s face,” he added.

And an author and educator who goes by neurodivergentrebel shared in their Substack that different thought patterns might be uniquely beneficial for neurodivergent people.

“Words are NOT my first language ― pictures and videos are,” they shared. They added that “some people have only pictures and video in their minds (with or without sound), and others have NO visual inner mind, only an internal monologue with sounds and no pictures. I am primarily a visual, pattern thinker. I think and process visually.”

They also mention that typing words out, speaking aloud, and looking away from a speaker while they’re talking to help ”to draw the pictures the sender’s words are painting” are helpful for them.

And while they say that both they and many Autistic people they know are visual thinkers, they stress that “Not EVERY Autistic person is a visual thinker, and NOT being a visual thinker doesn’t disqualify someone from being Autistic. This is a common Autistic experience, NOT a unified one.”

You can watch Dr. Raj’s full clip here:


Inner monologue @sheetal | writer 🖋

♬ original sound - Dr Karan Raj